Tulsa Health Department

Tulsa Public Schools

In a partnership between Tulsa Public Schools, the Tulsa Health Department and the Oklahoma Caring Foundation, more than 100 TPS employees received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Carver Middle School on Wednesday. 

"There was relief, for sure," said TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist, reached by phone on Thursday. "Gratitude. A lot of tears. I think that this has just been an extraordinarily stressful time for everyone, and certainly for those who do fall into these higher risk categories."

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Tuesday he's hopeful changes in the way the federal government apportions COVID-19 vaccine doses could be good news for Tulsa County.

"We think it'll be very impactful," Dart said on a virtual press update Tuesday morning. "Especially because we know we have quite a few private providers who have signed up to be distributors of the vaccine to their patients as well as pharmacies and urgent cares. We would have a much larger number of distribution points."

Tulsa Health Department

While the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Oklahoma is being universally celebrated by public health officials, health care workers and medical leaders, they are stressing that the immunizations won't have immediate impact on infection levels and vigilance is still necessary to prevent unnecessary transmission of the virus.

"It is here to stay, regardless of our vaccination process," said Dr. Jennifer Clark of the OSU Center for Health Sciences' Project ECHO faculty team. "Masking is going to be with us for probably the next year to two years until we get appropriately immunized."

The Tulsa Health Department will start administering the COVID-19 vaccine to selected health care workers on Tuesday.

That’s two days ahead of a schedule announced last week. Tulsa County received 5,850 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in the initial shipment. The vaccine requires two doses given 21 days apart and has been shown to be 95% effective.

American Academy of Pediatrics

The Tulsa Health Department anticipates it will start giving COVID vaccinations next Thursday.

That's dependent upon a Food and Drug Administration panel approving Pfizer's COVID vaccine, putting it in line to be shipped next Tuesday and received in Oklahoma the next day.

THD Clinical Services Manager Ellen Niemitalo said in consultation with the state health department, health care workers who care for COVID patients are first in line.

The Tulsa Health Department has updated its COVID-19 ZIP code risk map to reflect worsening local infection rates.

The new system adds four shades of red to help show increasing risk, with the darkest three dubbed Extreme Severe Risk, Extreme Severe Risk II and Extreme Severe Risk III.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A major COVID testing lab is expected to keep open free testing sites in Tulsa and other population centers after the Oklahoma State Department of Health allocated an additional $5.8 million in federal coronavirus relief funding for it late Thursday.

IMMY Labs expected to stop offering free testing because it had run short on state funding amid a testing boom before Thanksgiving.

According to state data, IMMY Labs has run more than 10% of all COVID tests in the state since Nov. 1.

The sixth time was the charm for the Muskogee City Council to pass a mandatory mask ordinance to combat the dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections. After five failed votes in recent weeks, the measure passed Monday night 5-3. 

The vote came the same day that Muskogee County declared a state of emergency due to a sharp increase in coronavirus infections and the possibility of overwhelming the already strained hospital system even further.

City of Broken Arrow

Despite worsening COVID-19 numbers as the pandemic heightens to its direst point ever in Oklahoma and nationwide, the Broken Arrow City Council Tuesday showed little interest in pursuing the sort of mandatory mask ordinance passed by Tulsa, Jenks and Sapulpa, spending more time at their meeting asserting false claims about masks and the pandemic, and calling for more civility on "both sides" of the issue.

Facebook / City of Broken Arrow

The city of Broken Arrow is unlikely to adopt a mandatory mask policy recommended by the county health department, according to Mayor Craig Thurmond.

"I do not see this council passing a mask ordinance at this time," Thurmond said in a video posted to Facebook on Friday.

In the video update, the only additional action shared by the mayor, beyond recommendations and encouragement, was the posting of signage by the city encouraging social distancing in parks and athletic facilities. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Citing the need to address the troublingly high increases in COVID-19 infections throughout Tulsa County, officials are cautioning against many traditional activities associated with the upcoming holidays that may trigger further spread of the coronavirus.

Courtesy Sam Vicent Davis (Twitter @samanthavicent)

The Republican Party of Tulsa County is defending its decision to hold a large, indoor event earlier this week on the evening of Election Day, even as COVID-19 infections and deaths are surging and as local health officials and hospital leaders are pleading with county residents to take more responsibility to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa officials are once again asking for the help of Tulsa County residents and the leaders of neighboring municipalities in beating back a climbing wave of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, said at a press conference Tuesday that most county residents who have contracted COVID-19 lately are choosing to actively impede public health investigators by refusing to answer the questions of contact tracers.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

(This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 16, to add a response from Derek Pate, Director of the Center for Health Statistics at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.)

The Tulsa Health Department said Thursday it would be making changes to the way it reports COVID-19 hospitalizations after determining the Oklahoma State Department of Health data it previously relied on was inaccurate.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Younger students will be allowed to return to in-person classes next month following a prolonged all-virtual start to the Tulsa Public Schools year caused by troubling local rates of transmission of the novel coronavirus.

The Tulsa Public Schools board came up with its own plan for students to come back to school. Over the course of a seven-hour meeting, they settled on pre-K and kindergarten students returning on Nov. 9 and attending Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be distance learning days.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Local officials on Tuesday painted a dire picture of the weeks and months to come if COVID-19 infection and hospitalization trends don't improve in the Tulsa area.

"Currently, our 14-, 30- and 60-day trends are all showing an increase. Our 7-day rolling average is also increasing. Our 7-day rolling average is above where we were in mid- to late-July, just before our biggest spike in cases," said Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Calling it as much about protecting your community as yourself, especially as flu season arrives during a global pandemic, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum received flu shots at a Tuesday press conference and urged Tulsans to do the same.

City of Tulsa

The annual "Don't Bug Me" flu awareness campaign from the Tulsa Health Department and Hillcrest HealthCare System has returned, as officials stress the importance of preventing the spread of the flu at a time when COVID-19 is already impacting hospital capacity.

Tulsa Health Department

The Tulsa Health Department has introduced a new, color-coded COVID-19 alert map, which Director Dr. Bruce Dart says is meant to help inform residents of the Tulsa metro of up-to-date risk levels in their communities.

"I think the more knowledge they have about where risk truly is allows them to follow recommendations and follow guidelines to keep themselves safe, and that's really what we're after," Dart said at a Monday press conference.

Facebook / City of Tulsa Gov

At a Thursday press conference, local officials said concern is growing alongside COVID-19 infections as more Tulsa County children catch the novel coronavirus.

"In the 5-to-17 age group, there were over 100 cases last week," Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said, adding that some in that age group were hospitalized.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Saying the science is clear that children 10 and older can spread and be sickened by the novel coronavirus, the director of the Tulsa Health Department recommended the Tulsa City Council amend the city's COVID-19 mask ordinance to apply to those 10 and above rather than just those 18 and above.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

One day after Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, called for all municipalities in Tulsa County to introduce a mask mandate similar to the city of Tulsa's to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials in some of those cities and towns showed no indication they plan to take the guidance.

"We have discussed it, and the Bixby council is not willing to pass a mask mandate at this time," said Bixby Mayor Brian Guthrie. 

Should schools reopen? Should we be playing (or practicing) team sports right now? And which type of mask is the safest one to wear? On this edition of ST Medical Monday, we speak about these and other matters with Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department. Dr. Dart, who last appeared on our show back in March, offers an update on COVID-19 in our community at present.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

It was an exclusive meeting.

After abundant anticipation of a visit to Oklahoma by Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House coronavirus task force since President Trump announced it earlier this month, at the OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa on Sunday, she was kept separated from the public, the media, and even the director of the Tulsa Health Department.

Union Public Schools

This story was updated at 12:34 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 11th, to note that board president Heather McAdams' hypothetical math is incorrect.

In a 3-2 vote, the Union Public Schools board of education voted against the recommendations of the Tulsa Health Department and their own superintendent that the school year begin virtually due to the severity of Tulsa County's COVID-19 outbreak.

Superintendent Kirt Hartzler and Associate Superintendent Charlie Bushyhead both made their case for the recommendation not to allow a return to in-person learning just yet.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa County continues to see "widespread virus" in the community, as delays in testing contribute to difficulties in properly responding to the pandemic, according the Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart.

At a press conference Tuesday at Tulsa Police Department headquarters, Dart said that testing laboratories are "swamped," leading to numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health that may be less useful due to being dated.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With new coronavirus infections increasing more rapidly among younger people than other demographics, Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department said that the return to school for districts in Tulsa County should be all-virtual for now due to the severity of the local outbreak.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Updated Aug. 4, 12:05 p.m. to correct "Cox Business Center" to "Cox Business Convention Center."

One month after their controversial booking of President Trump's 6,000-person reelection rally, representatives of the BOK Center and the Cox Business Convention Center in downtown Tulsa are expressing worry over how hard it is to keep events on the schedule.

Our guest on ST Medical Monday is Dr. Jennifer Clark, a Visiting Associate Professor of Community Health at TU's Oxley College of Health Sciences; she teaches in TU's Health Care Delivery Science Program. Dr. Clark is also a contributor/commentator for the ongoing, thrice-weekly Project ECHO updates regarding COVID-19. These online, open-to-the-public updates, originating from Oklahoma State University and freely streamable, are medically-driven information sessions presented by a multi-institutional array of doctors and scientists.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa County on Wednesday again broke a record for most new confirmed COVID-19 infections reported in a single day, and, as the spread continues to worsen, officials said they are discussing the possibility of making the wearing of masks mandatory and enforceable by law.